GRASSROOTS ACTION and Invasives ARE POWERFUL!

Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner

GRASSROOTS ACTION IS POWERFUL!

Today, my usual quote from 1790 by John Philpot Curran, about “eternal vigilance,” [1] is replaced by this – clearly derivative – quote about “incessant vigilance” from 1859:

“At the outbreak of the Civil War, bindweed was becoming quite troublesome … William Darlington (1782-1863) [made] this comparison in 1859: ‘We are told that incessant vigilance is the condition on which alone the rights of freemen can be maintained…I believe the farmer will find a similar condition annexed to the preservation of his premises [from bindweed].'” [2]

REMINDER: Please attend tonight’s May 3, 2016 HWFC Board meeting at 5:45pm at HWFC. Attend & remind others, too. See you there!

REMINDER: Don’t forget to see this month’s Co-op Voice, here.


   LESSER BINDWEED, the POSSESSION WEED

          I am a gardener. So were my Dad and Mom and they taught their children well! My worldview, when push comes to shove, always comes down to a gardening metaphor. Think about it, anything that happens to you in life …is also happening in a garden.

I adore gardening books, with their exquisite botanical drawings – some of which I inherited from my Dad’s wonderful collection  – books I remember flipping through when I was a child. Dad’s well-thumbed 1957 edition of Geraniums Pelargoniums by Helen Van Pelt Wilson, with water colors and line drawings by Natalie Harlan Davis; The Nursery Manual from 1896 and the 1910 Manual of Gardening both by the famous Liberty Hyde Bailey and the 1926 Garden Guide The Amateur Gardeners’ Handbook by Alpheus T. De La Mare (whose wife, Mrs. A. T. De La Mare, had a rhododendron named after her!)

I would recommend not using Garden Guide  The Amateur Gardeners’ Handbook, if you need help narrowing down choices for your garden. I salivated over these descriptors:

the geranium … well deserves its commanding place among the most satisfactory of old-fashioned flowers. …its magnificent trusses of  single, semi-double or double flowers, surmounting a wealth of bright green, healthy foliage … never fails to gain the highest admiration. (p. 115)

The hardy Pinks [Dianthus] rank with the time-honored gems of the old-fashioned garden. Splendidly adapted for beds and borders, they deserve a place in every garden, not only on  account of their great beauty and free-blooming qualities, but also for their usefulness as cut flowers. (p. 133)

The Poppy [Papaver] should be given a place in every garden, it is so graceful and delicate and beautiful. There is nothing more fairy-like than a bed of these grand single poppies, with their long, slender stems surmounted by silken blooms of the most charming tints. (p. 134)

Could the real beauty of the coloring of the Iris [Greek for rainbow] be expressed in words, such a description would be a masterpiece. …it is most dainty and elegant and surpassed by few other flowers. (p. 118)

It is very interesting to grow amusing looking flowers; the Snapdragon is such, for each flower is a lion’s head; one must merely press the sides of the head and the mouth opens. (p. 135)

I remember the time when my father surprised & delighted my brother and me when he expertly snipped off a pink snapdragon bloom for each of us – their fragrance was powerful on a winter’s day in the warm, moist greenhouse! – and taught us how to make the lion roar. Although I do remember pondering at the time, why wasn’t the flower called a snaplion because weren’t we – in point of fact – making a lion snap, not a dragon? (Dad had, quite clearly, read & studied Mr. Alpheus T. De La Mare’s book!)

Totally devoid of color drawings, simply reading De La Mare’s chapter – Some Garden Favorites and How to Grow Them – will fire your imagination, scratch your plant collector’s itch, and have you running to your local nursery (come to HWFC and buy beautiful, local, organically-grown perennials!), spending your annual garden budget in one fell swoop!

Two of my favorite modern gardening books, notable for their exquisite art nouveau artwork, layout and enchanting essays are edited by Ferris Cook: Remembered Gardens and Garden Dreams. And, of course, the 2004 Bungalow Details: Exterior by Jane Powell, with Linda Svendsen, photographer [the bungalow author/photographer team to read] and Paul Duchscherer’s 1999 Outside the Bungalow: America’s Arts and Crafts Garden, are treasures for the owners of modest bungalows & homes who wish to create welcoming outdoor rooms & quiet sanctuary for our guests & friends. [3]

Published in 1870, the short My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner, an American novelist, essayist and onetime co-editor of the Hartford Courant, is a must-read. Warner says,

To own a bit of ground, to scratch it with a hoe, to plant seeds, and watch the renewal of life – this is the commonest delight of the race, the most satisfactory thing a man can do. [4]

Warner was a Hartford, CT neighbor, friend and co-author with humorist & author Mark Twain, who contributed this gem to our base of American horticultural knowledge:

A cauliflower? Just a cabbage with a college education. [5]

(As as aside: can you imagine if, every Sunday morning over your cup of tea or coffee, you could read Mark Twain’s blogpost?! O.M.G. ROTFL!)

Of course, the beloved children’s book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – a tale of healing through gardening – cannot be missed by both young and old!

~~~~~

       These old garden books teach our families in words that are as relevant today as they were almost 100 years ago. Once again, looking to the 1926 Garden Guide  The Amateur Gardeners’ Handbook we food co-op people find sage advice:

The hygienic value of fresh vegetables and fruits is beyond question; their value to the family cannot be estimated in terms of money. The writer knows this and thousands of fortunate suburbanites will testify to its truth. A good garden is Nature’s antidote for all ills flesh is heir to; it certainly does not make for a source of revenue to the physician. Fresh fruits and vegetables, each in their season, taken from your garden, are something quite different from the much handled and frequently stale products one buys in the city. [6]

If you have not yet read Jean Giono’s 1953 The Man Who Planted Trees, go now and order it from your library. This book will inspire you to remember that every seed you plant, every plant you tend, matters.

LESSONS IN THE GARDEN

          Now, one of the things gardeners are good at is observing and being aware of patterns: spring comes after winter, for example – that’s an easy one – or the plants which get more than enough sun, thrive, or if you forget to pinch off the tips of your plants they get leggy.

We all know that the plants with the best compost & growing conditions, seem to always grow the biggest, sweetest, juiciest vegetables & fruits.

Patterns that harm are also noticed by the attentive gardener, for example: not enough sunlight, too much water, poor soil, not enough bees, too little NP or K, or an invasive doing its level best to take over …these can all threaten the beauty, the charm & delight, the stability & function and the co-dependence of things in a well-ordered garden.

A striving for balance is most important.

Since I was a kid, my father taught me to look for patterns, to seek for data & answers and to draw comparisons …that’s the gardener’s daughter training in me. Simile and metaphor were Dad’s favorite teaching tools. He regularly questioned my brother and me:

Why do seedlings need their potting soil loose? Why do air bubbles pop up when you water a pot? Why is that good for the roots? Why do tomato plants have prickly, spiny hairs on their stems? What happens when you forget and leave water lying in the soil around roots? What happens to this geranium cutting if you plant the stem too deep? Why did these plants die and these plants live? Why do flowers smell? What’s the first thing you should always do after you transplant any plant? What’s turning these leaves yellow?

What happened when you forgot to water these plants on Friday, Laura?

The most important questions inevitably involved soil, worms (a gardener’s best friends) [Thank you Jessica, for those composter redworms!] …and gold. Gold, as in What’s ‘black gold,’ oh daughter o’ mine and people of my people?

This daughter knew Dad meant – not the shiny, golden metal! – oh, no, he was referring to the deep, dark, rich, moist stuff created, like magic, from garden scraps: the treasure piles tucked away somewhere in a garden’s corners, silently created by heat, micro organisms, decay …and time.

My favorite lesson involved strawberries. Why do these strawberries taste better than those strawberries?

Now this was something I was an expert at. My berry-red tongue could easily distinguish the best strawberry plants, and often did, especially when picking quarts of strawberries for hours on end, for Dad to sell. He kept telling my brother and me we were eating into his profits, we were worse than the bugs. We didn’t care! For my Dad grew a damned good strawberry.

My mother’s chiding of me, as her adult, married, daughter, didn’t touch on the nuclear topics like Are you sure he’s the right man for you? or my delinquent housekeeping habits with Geez, Laura something stinks in your refrigerator, you didn’t notice?

No, as we sat together on my front porch one sunny, summer’s day, Mom’s fingers busily moving, expertly dancing over my baskets of petunias, she gently poked Gee, Laura, you behind on your deadheading, or what? Your poor plants!

INVASIVES

          One spring day, I was about 10, a question came up about invasives in a garden. What were they?

Slugs.

The subject came up while Dad, my brother and I were kneeling around some seedlings. I had just picked up a moist flat of – something, some annual, marigolds, portulacas, alyssum? – shaded next to the greenhouse (Dad had my little brother and I schlepping flats from here to there, and there to here – something we seemed to do a lot of as kids) and underneath my fingertips I felt a mass of wet, thick, cool, gushy, slimy blobs. Like lightening, I quick-released that flat straight down to the ground which, of course, smashed my flip-flopped toes, making me jerk sideways, causing my glasses to fly off, while I screamed in pain. This was followed by me jumping up and down, dancing around and howling, while I wiped my slimed fingers rapidly up and down my shorts. Yeecchhh.

My father and brother stopped dead. In unison, they both turned and quietly stared up at me.

Yes, alright so I got all girly-girl but come on. Gushy? Wet? Slimy? Cold? Can’t see ’em? You know there’s more lurking? A girl simply has to draw the line somewhere.

Anyway, I’m wiping slime off my hands, glaring at the eight market-pac mess of seedlings at my feet, and there goes Dad – squatting to help me rescue my dirt-smudged glasses (and his seedlings) – launching into teaching mode: why’re there slugs on that particular flat bottom? How do you get rid of them? Is there any place you can think of where they really could be a beneficial, Laura? [No.]

You see, most everything – from a gardener’s standpoint – can either be classified as an invasive …or a beneficial.

You know where slugs shake down.

~~~

          Another favorite “it’s gotta go” conversation around the gardener’s cottage was, “THAT damned woodchuck.” It involved a woodchuck who had taken up residence in the compost pile behind the greenhouse one spring. He just appeared out of nowhere, beady little eyes glinting as he waddled here and waddled there. Waddled because he was getting fat off the tasty morsels Dad threw in that pile every day! All he had to do was roll out of bed every morning, open his mouth …and eat! Woodchuck heaven!

Every evening that spring Dad would tractor home from the greenhouse for dinner, muttering and cursing as he came through the front door, replaying his latest scheme to get rid of THAT woodchuck. He tried everything. You name it. He had to because THAT woodchuck had discovered the wooden sill, above the fieldstone foundation of the greenhouse, and he was bent on eating the whole thing, stem to stern.

The compost pile just wasn’t tasty enough for him anymore, he had moved on to bigger and better things – or maybe he was just sharpening his teeth, I dunno – but anyway this now directly involved him cutting into Dad’s time and profit. And that had to stop.

Well, “everything” didn’t work. I know it involved poisons, traps, schemes, and lots of cursing and reading up at night, because we were told, in no uncertain terms, Kids, stay away from THAT compost pile!

Dad’s solution (the one which worked) – we ended up hearing second-hand from Mom, because Dad refused to talk about it at dinner that night – involved his grandfather’s shotgun …and a firm resolve to move THAT compost pile when he had time to get around to it. (Which never happened, gardens and greenhouses and priorities being what they are.)

~~~

          Now, weeds, I won’t even go into the subject of my Dad and weeds. Practical, he was a huge fan of black plastic and, also, straw mulch – which he grew and harvested – and an even bigger fan of one’s children being roped in (as often as possible) after school got out.

Benevolent – rather, damned wily – he (rather, Santa) provided my brother and me one Christmas with portable, battery-operated transistor radios you could hook on your bike’s handlebars, the hottest thing! (Oh, how innocent and thankful we were in December …and oh how jaded by May).

But, the world now opened up to us! We could each tune into our favorite rock & roll station…

…in the greenhouse, that is.

After school, all the other kids had their transistors perched next to their school books on their desks at home. My brother and I, on the other hand, had to search for ours …pushing aside market pacs, fresh with new seedlings or digging with soil-encrusted fingers among the piles of dying weeds we had just pulled, trying to fine tune the dial to AM 77 WABC’s Scott Muni [scroll to 1′ 57″ for a promo to join the Beatles’ fan club] and Dan Ingram [scroll here to 3′ 36″ for a “W A Beatles C” Beatles’ hits promo] and Cousin Brucie [click on the Airchexx icon below the article] and The Beatles.

…Listen, doo dah doo, do you want to know a secret, doo dah doo, Do you promise not to tell? Wo-o-o-oh, Closer, doo dah doo, let me whisper in your ear... [7]

Nobody could stop me from jumping up and practicing my twist moves among the strawberries, when Twist and Shout [scroll to 4′ 51″] came on, lemme tell you!

Yes, my brother and I were among the generation of kids who anxiously awaited each new Beatles’ hit as it came out and listened over & over (driving our parents’ crazy!) ’til we got all the words right (or not). When Hey Jude first aired, I thought it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. Ditto, Let it Be. [This is the first time I ever saw this Beatles’ Hey Jude clip; it has 19+ million views on YouTube! It first aired in the US on October 6, 1968 on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.] [You  gotta just love musicians, don’t you?]

I remember Mom – who always had the radio on, singing while she worked in her flower shop – singing Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. (Most parents at that time tried to ignore the youth phenomenon that was Beatlemania and the Beatles. Not Mom.)

There she is, tinny radio blasting into the hot, humid greenhouse, watering the coleus & begonias, alternating swinging her hips with pulling the hose, as she smiles over at her shy, teenage daughter and belts out …life goes on, La la how the life goes on.. [8]

My mom and her beautiful, sweet voice could have been a singer with the band!

And I secretly (I can now finally admit) also adored the Monkees (Micky was my favorite). I lay that shame to rest as I join the Monkees singing Neil Diamond’s I’m a Believer and point you to this 2011 version of them singing Neil Diamond’s A Little bit Me, A little Bit You! [I love the sax player, one of the rare female instrumentalists in an industry rife with boys’ bands.] And here’s WABC’s Cousin Brucie, in 1967, introducing the Monkees’ #1 hit, Daydream Believer [scroll to 1′ 20″] from a special Christmas Show taped and sent to “thousand of guys in Viet Nam…”

~~~~~

Slugs & woodchucks & weeds, oh my! We do have a long history together!

INVASIVES USUALLY HAVE SUPERIOR CAMO

          My favorite invasives’ story – as an adult, now – involves a thing of great beauty. It is a plant – a weed, actually – which is one of the twelve weeds featured on my set of “good dishes,” the “company” and holiday dishes. (Yes, I feed my company on weeds.) It’s a pattern from Portmeirion from Stoke-on-Trent called the Queen’s Hidden Garden. It includes six different patterns, with two different flowers in each pattern, for a total of twelve …weeds.

You will not, however, find these twelve weeds in any old garden. They all reside uniquely and together in the Queen’s garden at Buckingham Palace in England: weeds as treasure which pleases a Queen!

The book, by Sir David Bellamy, called Queen’s Hidden Garden: Buckingham Palace’s Treasury of Wild Plants, tells the story and includes the exquisite botanical paintings by Marjorie Lyon, used to adorn Portmeirion’s lovely dishes.

So, a few years back I was in my garden, in the morning, and I notice this beautiful, delicate, viny kind of plant. Thin, elegant leaves. It had trumpet-shaped blossoms that looked just like a morning glory, with paper-thin, delicate white petals and a blushing, light pink tinge toward the center.

The blooms appeared in the morning – unraveling exactly like a morning glory – and faded as the day waned, just like a morning glory.

I admired the plant, assumed it was some kind of a wild morning glory, decided to let it alone, and moved on to weeding down the row.

A few days later, I wandered over to that same area of the garden. This time, that beautiful, delicate plant seemed to have spread. And there was a defined thickish web of vines present now. No matter, I admired the blooms – again, this time so many more of them! how lovely! and made a mental note to come back in a week and tackle this area.

In the back of my mind the subtext is Beautiful flowers, multiplying effortlessly …and I didn’t have to do a thing. Jackpot!

I was taken in: I got schnookered. Bamboozled! Conned!! Flimflammed!!!

Well, three weeks later I made it back. Talk about muscling in! I, literally, could not find my garden. (And, you have to understand, my garden consists of perennials which – my gardener girlfriend “C” and I both agree on this – have to pass the litmus test of can’t kill ’em with a blowtorch before we’ll ever plunk down hard-earned cash: hostas being just one example of same.) I could, however, beneath a 2″ impenetrable mat of thin, delicate, viny, green stems, see the tips of what once was my garden …layered atop with an absolute profusion of glorious, smiling, delicate morning glory blossoms, beckoning and waving gently in the morning breeze, singing Come Hither! to any bee wandering the neighborhood.

Something clicked in my brain. Something looked familiar from somewhere.

I threw off my gardening gloves, ran into the house, and opened the corner cabinet with my good dishes and searched among the six different dinner plates ’til I found the one I was seeking. (Yes, in my family we run to dishes to check horticultural facts, as opposed to the more customary pages of a plant encyclopedia.) Clover blossoms and the corolla of those morning glories, paired so beautifully together, thank you God for artists like Marjorie Lyon!

There, in front of me, blooms painted in pale pink colors with grey-green, arrowhead-shaped leaves, was my morning glory plant. Or, I should say, that plant that looked like a morning glory, behaved like a morning glory and charmed like a morning glory. So innocent looking! So, delicately drawn! A flower a Queen adores! One of twelve. [Carolynn, that one is for you.]

Its name, my book now informed me, is: Lesser bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis L.).

THAT WHICH WE CALL A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET…[9]
(In other words, it ain’t what it’s called but what it is that counts)

Byndweed…is as it wer[e] an [imperfect] worke of nature learning to make lilies.
1562 [10]

          Lesser bindweed is also know as Field bindweed or European bindweed, Withy wind, Withwind, Bellbine, Corn-bind, Sheepbine, Bearbind, [Anythingbind!], Creeping Jenny, Devil’s guts, Laplove, and Possession vine. The ancient Romans called it volucrum majus,  literally meaning “a large worm that wraps itself in vines.” Its scientific name, Convolvulus arvensis, comes from the Latin verb, convolvere, meaning “to roll together” or “to entwine,” and arvens, Latin for “of the field.” [11]

A 1710 herbal, Botanologia The English Herbal or History of Plants Adornd with Figures The whole in Alphabetical order, written by William Salmon, M.D. (and dedicated to, who else but The Queen), gives us woodcuts of bindweed, including Bindweed Common (looks very familiar doesn’t it!) and informs us,

This Great Bind-weed is so like unto Scammony [a bindweed native to Eastern Mediterranean countries], that … one would think it to be one of the kinds of Scammony, whose many slender winding Stalks run up, and wind themselves upon whatever stands next, or near to them. [12]

What?! Stalks that run up and wind themselves on whatever stands near to them? You mean the names “Sheepbine” and “Bearbind” may actually have a basis in reality? I suspected as much.

Being a curious soul, I decided to check further back in history, maybe this 1710 citation was an aberration. Let’s go back 100 years or so, to the most popular 17th century herbal. This 1597 London herbal, John Gerarde’s The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes dedicated To The Right Honorable His Singvlar Good Lord And Master, Sir William Cecill Knight, Baron of Burghley [etc. etc. etc.] … and Lord High Treafurer of England (of course, the Lord High Treasurer of England …not the Queen, but Gerarde knew where his bread was buttered) had this to say about Blew Bindweed:

Blewe Bindweed bringeth foorth long, tender, and winding branches, by which it climeth vpon things that ftand neere vnto it, and fouldeth it felfe about them with many turnings and windings, wrapping itfelfe againft the funne contrarie to al other things whatfoever, that with their clafping tendrels do imbrace things that ftand neere vnto them… [13]

So, in 1597 Bindweed’s clasping tendrels embraced things; not quite so bad as in 1710 when the stalks ran up and wound themselves around whatever stood nearby! Not much else new here, except I am a teeny bit worried about “wrapping itself against the sun contrary to all other things whatsoever,” and that term “fouldeth it felfe” (which is probably “foldeth itself”) but – I’m now thoroughly jaded – sounds a little too close to “soldereth itself” for my comfort.

Gerarde’s 16th c. woodcuts of some “Rough Bindweeds” and some “Great smooth” and “Small gentle” bindweeds are … well, as viny then as they are now!

Gerarde informs us that Plinie (C. Plinius Secundus or Pliny the Elder who died in 79 CE [AD]) knew of Bindweed; Gerarde states: [Plinie] “who writheth in his 24. booke 10. chapter, that it is also surnamed Nicophoron.” (BTW, Pliny’s book was dedicated to the Emperor Titus. QueenLord High Treasurer of EnglandEmperor. I’m beginning to recognize a pecuniary pattern here, as an author.) [14]

Well, I went back and checked Pliny’s Natural History, here and here. Some scribe got something wrong – unless I got it wrong, more likely; I couldn’t find Nicophoron in Chapter 10 of book 24. (And BTW, the first click-on is the 1847-1848 re-publication of the first English translation done by Dr. Philemon Holland in 1601. The second click-on is the more complete 1855 English version translated by John Bostock, M.D., F.R.S. and H.T. Riley, Esq., B.A.)

Pliny’s Natural History was among the first of the classical Greek and Roman texts to be printed (mass produced books using moveable type, as opposed to being hand-written in manuscript form) during the Renaissance; it was published in Venice in 1469! (The Gutenberg Bible was first printed by moveable type in 1454 or 1455, so you can see how important Pliny’s book must have been to Renaissance culture.)

Pliny, himself, was born in 23 CE [AD] in Verona, Italy; Verona is the same city which Shakespeare memorialized in Romeo and Juliet roughly 1,574 years later!

Now, did you happen to notice what you and I  have just, together, done? We stepped into the equivalent of the Ancient Library of Alexandria, built in the 3rd c. BCE [BC]!! Indiana Jones’s we are, indeed! Lured by the tantalizing trail of books and manuscripts, which begins when you but open to a page… …or click on your browser!

STOP. AN OFFICIAL ASIDE, SOTTO VOCE: LIBRARIANS, MY HEROES!

          Do you realize what we just did? We just jumped from a 21st c. blog, to a 1710 book, to a 1597 book, to a 1601 English translation of a book (in Latin) started in 77 CE. (Yes, I said 77.)  That book’s author, Pliny the Elder, died in 79 CE during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius at Pompeii!

We were just perusing the words of an author who started writing his book 1,939 years ago!

Marvel at this for just one moment.

Up until very, very recently, you  could only view these books at a physical library, maybe somewhere far, far away. You had no chance in your life of ever seeing these books and, as important, of reading & studying their contents.

Now, here we are thumbing the pages of books and manuscripts, going back 2,000 years, virtually!

I’ll bet you never thought you’d end up taking this kind of a journey when you started reading a blogpost about flowers and invasives, did you!

You have simply got to love libraries and the librarians, who are the most unsung heroes I know of! Thank you to all librarians out there for the work that you do for all of us, including all the digital librarians out there! (Especially to David Lasocki, music librarian & recorder researcher extraordinaire!)

Please consider donating to the 501 (c)(3) Internet Archive, here, which is one of the groups responsible for digitally archiving books & manuscripts from many centuries, so that we all may benefit. Brewster Kahle is the Founder & Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. Support their work!

See also the awesome Project Gutenberg which “offers over 50,000 free ebooks … free epub books, free kindle books…” here; read about its founder, Michael S. Hart, and consider donating to Project Gutenberg.

BACK TO THE 16th C. AND BYNDWEED

         That 1562 quote, above, (“Byndweed…is as it wer[e] an [imperfect] worke of nature learning to make lilies.[10] ) even earlier than Gerarde’s 1597 herbal, doesn’t pull any punches; it states right out there that byndweed is a mistake of nature.

In a future blogpost I will report back what Shakespeare himself, who lived from 1564-1616 (and who was two when somebody astutely deemed Bindweed a mistake of nature), had to say about Byndweed. He can’t have ignored a plant so rich in metaphoric possibility!

Trust me, he didn’t, and what I uncovered is truly very, very interesting for those interested in horticultural history!

I LIVE, THEREFORE I WEED.

          Any gardener who has ever had to tackle Lesser bindweed knows that what you see on the surface is only 1/1,000th  of what’s going on underground. In fact, that last time I saw the profusion of blossoms – making a mental note to get to it – I remember thinking: Jeez Luise, this plant spreads like it has roots all over the length and breadth of our backyard and down to China!

Turns out I was not too far off. The hidden root structure of lesser bindweed is famous for just that pattern. It starts out its life – just six weeks in – with tap roots down to 2 feet and six lateral roots, for good measure (a belt & suspenders kind of a plant). One lesser bindweed plant can spread outward ten feet in just one season. Three seasons unchecked and its roots spread laterally 18 feet and penetrate to a depth of 30 feet!

If you thought I was kidding about the bindweed root system, see Gerarde’s 16th c. woodcut of the roots of the Rough Bindweed of Peru.

Now, that’s just one plant! What about the seeds?

The seeds of C. arvensis may remain viable in the soil up to 50 years and around 144 hours in the stomachs of some migrating birds. [15]

A bird, traveling up to six days from somewhere, can fly over your garden, deposit some bindweed seeds on the fly, behind your back, and with you none the wiser?

So, although this plant is featured as one of the twelve weeds beloved in the Queen’s hidden garden by the Queen of England herself, and I greatly admire its beauty in my hidden garden (hidden, at the moment, by Lesser bindweed)…

…as a gardener I know to ruthlessly rip it out when I see it beginning to wind its innocent, delicate, thin fronds and tendrils up to the tippy tops of my tall vegetables, herbs, best-loved perennials and, especially, roses (those things with thorns which draw my blood when they and lesser bindweed meet). I don’t waste a minute, I don’t fret or mourn, I simply strip it away from the garden plants I cherish …and deep six it in a hot compost pile. Burning it is an even better option because when your back is turned, bits of its rhizome can re-sprout – repeatedly!

I don’t have the luxury of a bevy of Under and Over and Head Gardeners, tending to the Twelve Royal Weeds. If its gotta go, its gotta go now, while it’s in front of my nose!

Seeds, rhizomes, lightning-speed growth, birds spreading its progeny from the air, and monster tap & lateral roots: coupled with its innocent & fetching beauty, this plant is a force of nature, evilly propagating itself into eternity here on earth!

This noxious plant is, in fact, the evil perennial relation to the innocent annual Morning glory I tenderly baby in a south-facing bed near the porch. However well-camouflaged, however pretty, and however fetching, it is an enchantress, an invasive and a parasite of the worst order. Weak-stemmed, with no spine of its own, it grows up and over everything and anything in its path, gaining ground by stealing its support from other plants. It gains, I’m sure, 12″ a day, each & every hot summer’s day (of course snickering while your back is turned, like that monstrous, evil Venus Flytrap, Audrey II, in the 1986 movie Little Shop of Horrors).

It is a gardener’s worst nightmare. It will choke, smother and kill any patch of garden it attaches itself to. It will assume charge and take over. That is its nature as a parasite (well, technically it’s not a parasitical plant, it might be an epiphyte …well, technically it’s not an epiphyte …and since there are no agronomists to hand… …ahem  …oh, except my brother and he will know, when he reads this. Back atcha, bro!)

Not only is Lesser bindweed on the noxious weed list for 35 states, it

has an impressive array of survival techniques which has enabled it to become one of the world’s 10 worst weeds. [emphasis added] [16]

So, I have to do my job, and protect the plants I both need for life & health …and cherish for beauty.

Therefore, I weed.

It is an evil twist of fate that this plant is not called Greater bindweed, it is called Lesser bindweed. Lord help me, I wonder just how bad Greater bindweed is? Lesser is clearly the Greater of two evils and someone clearly misnamed it! (By the way, just like butterflies. Shouldn’t they be called flutterbys? Somebody got that wrong, too!)

Perhaps in the naming, that first gardener sought to provide needed camouflage to this deadly, invasive beauty. [17]

It’s name belies its power!

Lesser bindweed lives by supporting itself upon the backs of other plants, creeping, choking, twisting, entwining, binding, smothering, and killing to gain the upper hand.

Nice.

The utter, destructive, planet-wide power of this camouflaged, invasive Lesser bindweed must have come from a curse: the Bindweed Curse, I’m guessing. (Do you have a better answer?)

Allow me drop into fantasy for just a moment: I’m imagining the hypnotic, powerful & frightening voice of the wizard, Gandalf the Grey (the beloved Ian McKellan – you did see him in Mr. Holmes?!), darkly and invisibly intoning a curse uncovered, placed secretly over the world – and my little patch of garden – centuries ago. (Please do not utter out loud, ever Ash nazg thrakatulûk   Agh burzum-ishi krimpatul. …One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind[weed] them In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.) [18]

Now, it did not escape my attention when I first read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring when I was 12, that it was a gardener whom Frodo Baggins chose to go with him on his perilous journey to Mordor. Whom else? I’ll bet Master Samwise and his old Gaffer were old hands at dealing with the likes of Lesser bindweed in their Hobbiton garden!

INVASIVES (IN THE LAND OF MORDOR WHERE THE SHADOWS LIE)

          Well – here comes the gardening metaphor, you knew it was coming (thank you Dad) – there is a pattern of invasives emerging at our food co-op you cannot help but notice, once you pay close attention. There is camouflage: people, circumstances, events appear one way when they are, in fact, another. The invasive roots keep re-invigorating, popping up where you don’t expect them and where they do great damage.

Turn your back, and they’re back.

So, to fellow gardeners at HWFC – and there are a lot of us!: Notice. Be aware. Tease out patterns. Note anomalous behavior. Learn to recognize camouflage for what it is and seek what’s behind the camouflage. Observe repeated, destructive patterns. See when something just doesn’t fit …or when it fits like a glove.

For example, are you aware of the pattern of notable disruptions, which seem to keep happening, over and over and over again, keeping our co-op in a constant state of agitation and divisiveness?

Not hard to spot …once you start paying attention.

The fact of the matter is, we at HWFC, have a former Board which spent – very recently – $500,000 (!) to end Member-Owner control & ownership of our co-operative corporation. They invested this half-million dollars (our dollars!) – behind our backs, camouflaged by national .coop consultants, a local consultant, two law firms, and a Strategic PR  firm, in an attempt to re-structure our co-operative corporation.

The Bylaws Task Force (with its Bylaws Research Team advised by CDS Consulting Co-op who were also members of the Bylaws Task Force) and the Strategic Planning process – both appear now, in hindsight, to have been camouflaged operations of this former Board with a true motive of manipulating us and securing our buy-in so that we would, willingly & unwittingly, let go of our own corporate control and ownership.

A bloodless coup attempt.

An Organizational Change Agent was employed to shepherd the Strategic Planning process and, likely, “smooth ruffled feathers” should any co-operative corporation owners start seeing through the camouflage and ask uncomfortable questions (“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain![19]). This Organizational Change Agent could help create the bridge between the old corporate order…

…and the new one.

This amount of  planning and money being invested was not just a lark. They meant business.

And remember, we were never supposed to find out about these plans and the $500,000 utilized to implement them. It was just supposed to go down. We did find out because a bunch of us are “eternally vigilant” …and we saw through the camouflage of the invasives.

However, the influence of that $500,000 didn’t just end & disappear when two (former) Board members did not stay Board members on November 30, 2015, or when four (former) Board members resigned on January 5, 2016, when two (former) top Managers resigned (and one did not), or when a brand new Board of nine got reconfigured on April 17, 2016.

A half-million dollars – and all it purchased, both locally, as well as nationally, especially nationally – can leave behind a lot of roots, both tap & lateral roots, which then need some camouflaging…

…which will require constant uncovering if the garden is to survive.

Patience, observing patterns …and weeding out invasives with vigor, when needed, seem to fit the bill here.

We are a locally-owned food co-op tended for forty years by a bunch of – a veritable tribe! – of families down those four decades: a beloved, thriving, local community-owned food co-op. We have a long and strong history of families supporting other families, producing, buying, sharing and eating fresh, high quality, local, organic, real food, and working co-operatively and together.

Our food co-operative is a community institution …as are all the locally-owned food co-ops across the United States, started by families, farmers, grandparents, hippies, and economically-smart, ecologically-smart, community-minded people. We are part of the long and honorable history of American co-operatives (and farm granges, 4-H clubs, and the like) which have blessed & economically supported local groups of U.S. families since at least the 18th century. (And, as my study of history assures me, groups of families must have certainly been behaving co-operatively together for many, many more centuries before this, especially around the issue of food.)

It does so figure that Benjamin Franklin is credited with starting the first American co-operative in 1752 …a mutual fire insurance company which is still in operation! [20]

That this institution – locally-owned & operated American food co-operatives – is under attack is clear.

We owe it to all those HWFC families, to the institution of American co-operatives – and to ourselves – to continue to defend our independently-owned, locally-owned and operated food co-operative. Watch-dogging of our borders (“eternal vigilance“) is still very much needed.

LESSER BINDWEED, THE POSSESSION WEED

          Most of us – I would say the great, large majority of us! – seek to create and maintain the beauty, the charm & delight, the stability & function and the co-dependence of things at our well-ordered food co-op: that is, we are striving for balance in our “co-op garden.”

Many, most of us at Honest Weight are gardeners of one sort or another: and gardeners are good folk.

However, it does appear that there is a camouflaged invasive doing its level best to gain ground. That’s what invasives do.

We do appear to have a bad case of Lesser bindweed, the Possession weed, going on.

With yearly sales of $24 million – one of the top-producing food co-ops in the entire United States – invasives, from a gardener’s perspective, cannot, I suppose, be avoided.

Like slugs and weeds, they need to be managed.

Eternal vigilance  – and weeding – truly are the tickets called for.

~~~~~

[1] See the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. and Suzy Platt, ed., Respectfully Quoted, p. 200, #1054.

[2] See the website of the Weed Science Society of America, here. Quote from:
Darlington, W. 1859. American Weeds and Useful Plants. Orange Judd & Company, New York.

[3] Every gardener I know has a long must-get list of garden books. Mine includes: the 2010 Gardens of the Hudson Valley by Susan Daly; Jane Garmey’s 2013 Private Gardens of the Hudson Valley; the 2010 Landscape Gardens on the Hudson by Robert M. Toole; the New York Historical Society’s 2009 The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision and the brand new 2014 Historic Houses of the Hudson River Valley by Gregory Long. I can usually score affordable copies at Biblio or E-Bay.

[4] Warner, Charles Dudley. My Summer in a Garden. New York: The Modern Library, 2002. Page 5. (Originally published in 1870) Print.

[5] Ibid, [p xi].

Take a day trip! Go visit the Mark Twain House & Museum, in Hartford, CT.

[6] De La Mare, A. T. ed. Garden Guide  The Amateur Gardeners’ Handbook. New York: A. T. De La Mare Company, Inc., 1926. Page 8. Print.

[7] Lennon, John and McCartney, Paul. “Do You Want to Know a Secret” from Please Please Me. Perf. The Beatles. Parlophone, 1963. LP.

[8] Lennon, John and McCartney, Paul. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” from The Beatles (also called the White Album). Perf. The Beatles. EMI Studios, 1968. LP.

[9] Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2. Print.

[10] See the website of the Weed Science Society of America, here. Quote from:
Simpson, J. A., and E.S.C. Weiner. 1989. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

[11] See the website of the Weed Science Society of America, here.

[12] Read the chapter about Bindweed Common, from the 1710 Botanologia  The English Herbal: or History of Plants written by William Salmon, M.D. The chapter was proofread by Nick Jones and this electronic version of the translation appears on the website of Helsinki, Finland herbalist Henriette Kress. Thank you Ms. Kress for providing access to this wonderful 18th c. herbal! See the story about this online reference here.

See also this electronic copy of the book itself at the Internet Archive: here. Awesome! You can read this 1710 book and even more herballs from the 17th and 18th centuries! Please consider donating to the 501 (c) (3) Internet Archive, here. Brewster Kahle is the Founder & Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive. You gotta just love librarians!

 [13] You simply must study the delightful cover of this late 16th c. book!

The complete dedication continues: Mafter of the Court of wardes and Liueries, Chancellor of the Uniuerfitie of Cambridge, Knight of the Most noble order of the Garter, one of the Lords of hir Maiesties most honorable priuie Counfell, and Lord High Treafurer of England [NB: Working on this citation.]

[14] (NB: Working on this citation, as well.)

[15] See IDAO, “an open source plants identification software selected to be a part of the global PlantNet project,” here, and its page about C. arvensis here. What a fantastic tool!

[16] See the website of the Weed Science Society of America, here.

[17] Please also see endnote #11. The 1710 Botanologia, or The English Herbal written by William Salmon, M.D. makes a distinction between the Common Greater Bindweed and the Lesser Blew Bind-weed: “The Lesser is like the Greater in most respects, except the Magnitude.”

[18] Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fellowship of the Ring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1966. Page 60. Print.

[19] LeRoy, Mervyn, & Fleming, Victor. 1939. The Wizard of Oz. USA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Also see IMBD for movie quotes, here.

[20] See the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Co-operatives website, here.

© Laura Hagen

What a wonderful vibe at the Coop!

Dear Honest Weight members: I am working a few hours a month doing member labor in Grocery. Since the big Member meeting and Board upset, I’m noticing the vast array of sales, more than I’ve ever seen before, and the happy smiling faces of people working in both member labor and paid positions. Maybe I’m just being hopeful, but the big new store finally is starting to feel just a little more like the old store on Central Ave. I remember how down everyone seemed once the edict went out from our previous Board to end member labor. The Coop seemed so sad. Now it feels to me like we are jumping for joy. Thanks to those of you who lobbied for our new Board members, and thanks to you who will be running (hopefully again) for the new Board seats in the upcoming election. And thanks to you who are on our new Board, making good decisions, and keeping Honest Weight Food Coop honest!

Jules Harrell

Transforming our Co-operative with Compassion

Submitted by Chrys Ballerano, HWFC shareholder

[Admin note, 12/8/15: The first version of this post was published in incomplete form due to a trick played on me by gmail, wherein the last two paragraphs of Chrys’ writing were hidden from me and I did not copy them.  They have been added now.  Apologies to Chrys for this error! – Rebecca Tell]
I appreciate these posts. There are so many personalities engaged in these discussions and so much speculation, that it seems impossible to not feel sometimes like I’m in some great fictional novel that is prime to become a hit film in the next decade.
One of the things that concerns me, even though I don’t like the structure of the Leadership Team, and never have, is the idea of throwing out hard workers who have tried their best, in a very challenging situation, to keep the co-op operationally successful. For instance, I don’t believe that Lexa, specifically wants to rid the Co-op of Member Labor, or ever wanted the co-op to not be a true cooperative, but her position has become more and more isolating for her over time and without support, we all make mistakes. And I think that the skills she had before being hired as part of the LT and the experience she’s gained could be a real asset to the Co-op. When I hear people talk about “firing the LT” I think instead, why not change their jobs instead and provide true supervision, mentoring and accountability? Since we have no ideas of their current salaries I’d also say that a pay cut may be necessary along with the change in their roles.  If there is talent, experience and commitment there, then shouldn’t we be humane in how we revolutionize and transform our Co-op- in both the process of how we go about our business of changing our structure, as well as the products we decide to carry in the future, etc. I wonder if we’ve ever asked any of the LT if they think the LT is working well or was ever a good idea. I thought the positions were supposed to be transitory to get us into the new building and then re-evaluated. This could be that time and we can evaluate how best to keep the good in place and discard the unnecessary, and wasteful aspects of the work force, beginning with those 3 top positions. I think each of these employees needs to be assessed on an individual basis and I think the salaries should not be held secret from the membership/owners who pay them.
Yes, there are many members with an agenda. Who of us doesn’t have an agenda of some kind.  We all want the Co-op to thrive for multiple reasons- personal, economic, political, philosophical, spiritual, physical, and we have an agenda in accordance with these reasons whether we like to admit it or not. (I for one miss the old store- and I mean the Quail St. store. I wish we had a dozen similar  satellite stores like that one scattered around the Cap Region that sold mostly local, organic whole foods at affordable prices, and basic locally produced body care/ herbal/ health products at affordable prices. And the GMO- laden, overpriced, overpackaged crap be damned. That’s my personal co-op fantasy.) What’s yours? Obviously I’m just one member with one limited, dreamer’s perspective.
 How do we begin to even hear the vision for how to transform what we now have- a large building with a large membership, staff, overhead, debt, etc.with many people fighting about what the best way to run the business of our Co-op is. The multiple strategic planning meetings and conference were to assist this process but sadly that process has been aborted or at least perverted by so much cynical action and fear based power moves, it makes our heads spin. It becomes ever more difficult to feel like there will be any integrity in the process itself. We need to get better at holding each other accountable for the greater good. And to do it with love and compassion. 
As I stated in my letter to the Board this week, “our historical membership meeting this Monday showed a clear demand expressed by the Co-op membership to protect the member labor program and not further jeopardize it. With all due respect to the many hours of work many of you have put into the Co-op and your genuine concern for its future, I implore Deb, Roman, Leif and Rosanna to step aside from “leading” the board at this time, if you will not actually, step down, which would be an even greater expression of integrity.
The new board members must be treated as full board members and given the information needed to serve the membership at this crossroads and discuss beforehand, any meetings with the DOL and Co-op attorneys. Now is not the time for power grasping and wringing of hands with attorneys who have not earned the trust of our membership or new board members. There has been a mandate for transparency. What about this is not clear?”
I don’t envy any of the new board members positions but I do cheer them on to dive into this muck and see what can be salvaged as we move forward. And I think we have to compassionately consider whether terminating staff- LT or others- who have valuable information, experience  and  commitment to Honest Weight, albeit with lessons learned and mistakes made (who among us hasn’t made mistakes?) is the wisest way to go. It may be squandering some of our greatest resource and not allowing the process of discussion, and conflict resolution to be completed, and lead us further down a path of financial loss, etc. as new people need to be trained, experienced, etc. And I think the Co-op better be sure, if we collectively or otherwise decide to end people’s jobs, that we are legally legitimate in doing so. I’m aware of non profits where unsavory & expensive lawsuits from former employees who alleged they were wrongfully fired cost high legal fees and many months of energy & time to resolve, even in cases where the worker’s record of productivity was not impressive.
If I’m off the mark, and there are too many grievances re: the LT to offer any of them alternate jobs in management at the Co-op, their productivity record and course of conduct will be clear enough to assess. Although I’ve been a member for over 26 years, I am not part of the “inner circle” of Co-op politics and I’m 100% sure that I don’t know half of what’s gone on since we voted to move out of Central Ave. and devised the LT to help lead the way to our new store. I regret that my day job was under such transition that I had my hands full there trying to steer a sinking ship with my new director and find ways to viably keep ourselves afloat and effective. That’s largely why I haven’t been a steady store worker in the new building or able to serve on committees other than this past year with strategic planning meetings and the conference, where I truly enjoyed a sense of solidarity and shared commitment to our precious, unique and ever-evolving Co-op. So many great ideas emerged there- so few fruit to show for it now. But I’m hopeful that we’ve got excellent new board members and active member/worker/owners who will diligently see this through. I’m honored to be among you. My thanks go out to the many who have put in the countless hours this past year + to raise the questions that need to be asked, answered, and integrated into our next stage of HWFC management and our presence in the larger community.

For HWFC employees

Submitted by Rebecca Tell

The very first thing I want to say after reading last night’s Inside Scoop is to coop employees.

We have a report back from Ursula Abrams about the meeting with the DOL.  In some ways, as we knew was likely, it gives us very little new information.  We know there are risks.  We know that DOL is not interested in investigating us.  We have choices to make about how to go forward, and they’re not going to tell us what to do.

There will be a tendency for each “side” to focus on the parts of Ursula’s message that reinforce what we understood before.  Some will feel validated by “yes, there really are risks” and others will feel validated by “yes, they are really not interested in investigating us.”  Both are real.

Here’s my request to you, the paid workers.  Especially if you have been worried about the risks posed to the coop by member labor.  You will hear people saying we should not just conclude that we need to change the member labor program based on the information we have been given.  You will hear people voicing concerns about the process of how decisions were made around this meeting and who was there.  You will hear people voicing concerns about how process will go in the future, calling to ensure the inclusion of more voices.  Please do not assume that these folks are not listening to you.

Speaking for myself, here’s what I’m hoping for:

  • We move closer to, not farther from, a cooperative where the decisions are made by the people who do the work – BOTH employees and members.  We use that goal as our compass as we get creative thinking about how to be effective and how to manage risk to levels that we collectively judge to be acceptable.
  • Employees get a better deal at work as they have a stronger voice in decision making and as we bridge the gaps between employees and members.
  • We continue to differentiate ourselves in the market as a people-powered, values-oriented local food source, and make it plainly visible to Whole Foods that they have no reason to sabotage us (if they ever even thought of it) because our primary base wouldn’t shop there even if HWFC were shut down.
  • We team up with other coops to advocate for new law / policy defining the how cooperatives fit within existing labor law, and advocate for definitions that clearly allow member labor and distinguish it from other problematic labor practices.

There can be lots of conversation about what exactly the goals should be.  I’m not saying we should all just adopt mine, or even that mine won’t evolve.  What I do hope you’ll get from my list is that working for member interests and working for employee interests don’t have to be contradictory.

Here’s what I’m focusing on from Ursula’s message.  We have time.  We can continue all these conversations, and brainstorm about what to do with everyone who cares, and take the time to get it right.   I’m not saying we should drag it out for years and years – but we don’t have to make anything different by next month.  DOL is not breathing down our necks.  We can carry on as we have been until we collectively decide what direction we want to go.

So my bottom line for now is:  please, please, when you hear folks advocating for member concerns, please don’t assume they are trying to override or ignore you.  Please bring your own concerns to the table with the expectation that members will listen and work in good faith toward solutions that work for employees as well as for members.  I for one will be doing everything I can not to disappoint you on that.

We are not at war

Submitted by Lorre Smith
I’d just like to ask again that we refrain as much as possible from “war” rhetoric as we go through this process.  Trying to depict what we are doing as “war” implies that we shouldn’t be doing it.  War is a horrible degrading devastating and savage human activity.
We are using  highly conscious human democratic processes to resolve our disagreements and so far we are all obeying a very civilized set of rules to the best of our abilities given the urgency of the situation. This is not even a vague resemblance to war. A little harsh speech, some missteps, perhaps some knee jerk reactions, these are going to happen when people feel strongly. We most definitely SHOULD BE DOING THIS process so that our disagreements aren’t brushed under the rug.  Our cooperative organizational structure requires it as we continue our dialogue between all the divisions of our Honest Weight business.
Best wishes to everyone as we approach our balloting!!!
Lorre ( a 20-year member and still in love with our messy, democratic cooperative)

New petition group website

Submitted by Rebecca Tell

The petition group has their own site now!

https://memberownedhwfc.wordpress.com/

This may be confusing if you have been thinking of this infohub site as belonging to the petition group, which many have thought was the case.  But the infohub has always been independent and open to submissions from anyone in the coop community.  It has been extensively used by the petition group, and that was in fact one of the reasons for its creation, but this site is not owned and operated by the petition group, as the new one is.

And yes, I’ve been wearing an orange shirt at the Meet the Candidates events!  I am honored to have been invited to join together with the petition group candidates in what has informally been called the “Let’s Chat Party.”  I am very glad to be working together with them.  But this site is still its own thing, and so it makes sense to me that they wanted a site that was their own.  Go check it out!

From a former member

Submitted by Leslie Carey, former member owner

As a member for 25 years, I was appalled to observe the changes in culture that occurred since moving to the new store, culminating in the hiring of a store manager whose most significant work experience was at Price Chopper.  Golub’s culture clashes with our goals at the HWFC.  To me, this foreshadowed all that is happening now, and represents the trend that both the Board and the Leadership Team have been striving for.
I was a 24% working member on and off over the years, but consistently so for the past several years.  I loved that place!  But my husband and I are no longer members.  We requested a refund on our shares.

I am heartened by the responses to what these people are doing, and will follow these efforts with great interest.

Leslie Carey

Could we remember who we are?

Dear fellow Coop Members,
The attached article spoke to me of the community I know we have been and still are to one another. With all of the conflict currently poised to tear us apart, I wondered if remembering the messages in this article might be helpful. We are a diverse, complex, creative, skilled and loving group. When all the current turmoil ebbs we still want to be able to greet each other in the aisles. Friends and strangers who can see beyond our differences. If fear can be overcome connection follows.
Chris Colarusso
Proud Working Member in the Meat and Seafood Department
Proud Member Owner of the Honest Weight Food Coop

Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye
Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies— little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts— from her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single traveler declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo— we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.
Then the airline broke out free apple juice and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend— by now we were holding hands— had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate— once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

 

Letter from Ned Depew

Submitted by Ned Depew, staff member, worker owner, and Board member:

I posted this on the Facebook page (“Let’s talk HWFC”) and Rebecca Tell requested that I repost it here:

Friends –
while I’m unhappy about the controversy that has sparked these conversations, I am heartened by the enthusiasm, interest and energy which so many members are investing in the Co-op.

We clearly don’t all agree on how to deal with these issues. The gap in our balance sheet created by our debt load and slower than expected sales growth, as well as how to respond to the perceived threat our counsel – in reviewing our by-laws – have told us the MLP may represent, are real, and we must find a way to respond.

I do believe that the membership has the intelligence, commitment, expertise and awareness to find creative and collaborative ways to meet these challenges, and I welcome this upsurge in member participation.

I am concerned that people may be hoping for simple, easy solutions to these problems, which – having studied them for some time – I do not believe exist. Building a Co-op, and a new Co-operative economy is a long-term process, that will be full of challenges and even mistakes. As Einstein said: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

We need to be committed to understanding the difficulty of what we are attempting, investing the energy and attention required, forgiving ourselves and each other for our mistakes, and focusing on coming together to reach our goals.

I hope these conversations, and others we will be having in coming days will foster that kind of sincere, respectful, creative collaboration, as it did when the Co-op was first starting forty years ago. We are the heirs of forty years of effort, which we’ve brought forward daringly and excitingly. We have to work together – from the values that unite us rather than divide us – to move forward.

Shareholder voting discussion

This started out as a comment on another post, but the conversation is worth making more visible.  The initial comment is from shareholder Susan Mattice:

I am a non-working member-owner of HWFC. I joined in 1986, paid for my share immediately, and was a working member for many years. I am writing to say that nobody should assume that non-working members’ interests are in conflict with those of working members. “Divide and conquer” is not a good strategy. I support the member-worker program and will continue to do so. Frankly, my 2% discount does not make shopping at HWFC a bargain for me; on the contrary. I shop at HWFC because I believe in member-owned organizations, and because I believe it’s a good thing to have members who choose to work for larger discounts. I feel I should have voting rights as a member-owner, and I do not like being characterized as someone who would undermine the member-labor program simply because I no longer am a participant in it. I am still an interested party, though now rendered powerless in any decision-making. If working members want the support of non-working members, you have to give us the right to vote.


The conversation that followed is in the comments to this current post, and is well worth your time!